Midfielder Alireza Jahanbakhsh hailed Iran’s “fantastic” victory over Syria on the opening day of the third round of the 2022 World Cup Asian qualifiers.
Iran’s captain for the night secured a 1-0 home win for the country after his side-footed strike deflected in off Syrian defender Thaer Krouma with 11 minutes into the second half.
The hard-fought victory against a solid Syria gave Iran an early lead in Group A of the qualifiers as the other two fixtures in the group finished goalless on Thursday.
South Korea and the UAE were held at home against Iraq and Lebanon respectively.
“Thank God we made the first step strongly at home. We’ve got to keep going with the same performance for the next games as well,” Jahanbakhsh said in an on-field interview at the Azadi Stadium.
“The first game is always critical, and we were aware of the importance of this game. Getting three points at home is really something fantastic and it paves the way to continue even stronger,” added the Iranian.
Jahanbakhsh has got off to a flying start at new life in Feyenoord, which has seen him bag three goals in seven appearances for the Dutch club.
“Thank God I’ve started the preseason well with my club, and with Feyenoord, we’ve started the season really well. It was important to bring that shape to the national team as well. It is obviously a big responsibility,” the 28-year-old midfielder added.
Meanwhile, assistant coach Marijo Tot, who was in charge of the side in the absence of head coach Dragan Skocic, after he had tested positive for coronavirus before the match, praised the Iranian players for their efforts against Syria.
“I want to say that we are very happy that we won the game,” said the Croatian.
“As we know, all of the favorites in this round had problems today. South Korea [drew] against Iraq, and Japan lost against Oman in another group. That means this competition will be very tough for all teams, especially the teams who are expecting to be at the World Cup.
“Today our players gave their best, and this is a great victory for the start of the competition.”
In Group B of the qualifiers, Japan suffered a shock 1-0 home defeat against Branko Ivankovic’s Oman, courtesy of an Issam al-Sabhi’s 88th-minute strike, while Australia beat China 3-0 in Doha to stand atop the group.
Saudi Arabia also came out victorious against Vietnam by a 3-1 scoreline in Riyadh.
Next for Iran is a trip to Doha, where Skocic’s men will take on Iraq at the Khalifa International Stadium on September 7.